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Staff, students and turtles OK at UT’s marine unit in Port Aransas

Staff, students and turtles OK at UT’s marine unit in Port Aransas

The turtles and the people are safe. That’s the good news. The bad: It might be a month before much of the University of Texas’ Marine Science Institute at Port Aransas can be occupied after it was visited by Hurricane Harvey.

The institute “lay in the path of the hurricane and was severely damaged by the wind and rains, though, thankfully, all of our students and employees are safe,” UT President Gregory L. Fenves said in a messageto the university community.

Officials visited the institute Monday to assess the damage but no dollar figure was immediately available.

The institute’s various facilities include a rehabilitation unit for stranded and injured sea turtles and marine birds.

“We transported a lot of birds off-site prior to the hurricane, and we released as many of the sea turtles (to the Gulf of Mexico) as we could prior to the hurricane,” said Sally Palmer, a spokeswoman for the institute.

Additional sea turtles were released Sunday, and others were transferred to the Texas Sealife Center on Padre Island, Palmer said. All sea turtles are endangered species she said.

All told, 30 green sea turtles were released, 29 green sea turtles were transferred and one Kemp’s ridley sea turtle was transferred to the sealife center.

The institute has about two dozen buildings, including labs, offices and dorms. Some labs sustained water damage and all of the buildings probably sustained some damage, ranging from missing shingles to major damage, Palmer said. “They appear to be structurally sound,” she said, “but we have to wait for the engineers to view them.”

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